#notetoself Feed

Note to Self: _A Comment on Development Engineering: With respect to "doing good versus doing well"...

From an economist's point of view, the economy is a decentralized societal calculating machine. It looks at everybody, and tries, in a utilitarian way, to increase social welfare—which it roughly defines as summing everybody's well-being, with each person's well-being weighted by their lifetime wealth. This produces a system in which incentives are, and "doing well" achieved by, increasing resources that produce things for which rich people have a serious Jones.

Serving the global poor is not going to do that. Som making a living serving the poor requires focusing on one of two things:

  1. Finding an organization—a government or an NGO—that is willing to some degree to commit resources to bend this market logic of "to those who have, more shall be given"

  2. Find some people who have skills and resources and industry that are somehow blocked from the sight of the world market, and figure out a narrow strategic intervention that will makes those resources visible—and hence valuable.

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Note to Self: Trying and failing to gain conceptual clarity about and work my way through the algebra involved in a minor point in Blanchard's excellent and stimulating presidential address: Public Debt and Low Interest Rates: https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/WS2019/blob/master/Thinking_About_Blanchard%27s_Presidential_Address....ipynb?flushcache=true...

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Note to Self: The Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth, and Stephen Moore Have No Principles Whatsoever. Why Do You Ask?: Now that Stephen Moore has signed up with Donald Trump, he is opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership.... On Trish Regan's show with him, he made four points about TPP: 1. The agreement is long, and has lots of pages in it. 2. The agreement does not commit the Asians to stop copying our intellectual property. 3. The agreement does allow the U.S. to impose retaliatory penalties on other signatories if they do copy our intellectual property, but they will copy anyway. 4. The agreement is unlike NAFTA, which is a good thing. But... short months ago...

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Note to Self: The Two Best Books I Read in 2018:

John Carreyrou: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1524731668: John Carreyou broke the Theranos fraud story and here tells it magnificently. It is a grift of others—and a self-grift by the Theranos principals—of almost unbelievable magnitude. The only way to understand the investors and principals is, in the words of one Silicon Valley observer: “they had seen too many of their once-peers and now-superiors get rich by doing stupid things that they thought being stupid was a viable business model”...

Adam Tooze: Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0525558802: The field of the finance and economics of the past decade’s disasters has been well plowed by authors Like Barry Eichengreen, Martin Wolf, and Gary Gorton. The brilliant Adam Tooze, however, is the first I am aware of to successfully and magisterially broaden the scope, and do a satisfactory job on the political economy and the politics as well...

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Note to Self: Enjoyed Cherryh and Fancher's Alliance Rising very much, but... I wish I had read something else this past week and had saved this for five years from now, when The Hinder Stars II, III, and... IV? would be out...

For reasons I do not fully understand, these days publishers seem to want to greenlight books where the authors say: “and we have already written to sequels!” This then creates the problem of how to end the first book with a satisfactory plot resolution while still leaving a bigger story open for the sequels. It is a hard problem. And, much as I enjoyed reading Alliance Rising, Cherryh and Fancher did not quite manage to make it work.

Mind you, it is close—If only Jen-and-Ross-Together had been given twice the screen time, 40% rather than 20% of the book, it would have been a wonderful Happy-for-Now romance In addition to all of its other excellences. And overshadowing it all is that it is all going to end very badly for a great many of the major characters: Because I do not remember hearing about them in any previous Cherryh book, I fear for the ships Rights of Man and Galway and for the entire Monahan family. And I know that Alpha Station becomes a Mazianni military base. I have a bad feeling about Hinder Stars II, III, and... IV?: C. J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher: Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars I https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0756412730...

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Note to Self: No, Apple! No Potty Mouth, Please!: A number of the biases in voice recognition systems come from the initial training dataset. Senior google employees have claimed to me–how serious they were I do not know–that Gmail autocomplete's extraordinary! love! for! exclamation! points! comes from its use of google engineers as its initial training dataset.

Today I am disturbed that Apple voice recognition keeps hearing “slut“ when I say “slack“. What training dataset produces that? From my perspective, Apple voice recognition needs to acquire much less of a potty mouth—or at least to have a potty-mouth-off switch—for it to be useful to me. Someday it is going to do something, and I am not going to catch it...

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Note to Self: Optional Readings by This Year's Note Prize Winners:

  1. Paul Romer (1989): Endogenous Technological Change: "Growth in this model is driven by technological change that arises from intentional investment decisions made by profit maximizing agents. The distinguishing feature of the technology as an input is that it is neither a conventional good nor a public good; it is a nonrival, partially excludable good...

  2. Paul Romer (2015): Economic Growth: "Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered. And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas...

  3. William D. Nordhaus (1996): Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Lighting Suggests Not: "During periods of major technological change, the construction of accurate price indexes that capture the impact of new technologies on living standards is beyond the practical capability of official statistical agencies. The essential difficulty arises for the obvious but usually overlooked reason that most of the goods we consume today were not produced a century ago...

  4. William D. Nordhaus (2007): A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change: "How much and how fast should we react to the threat of global warming? The Stern Review argues that the damages from climate change are large, and that nations should undertake sharp and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions...

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